Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and redesign your website. For some companies this can be an easy undertaking only taking a few weeks work, and for others it can be a significant project that could take several months. Whether your website is under 10 pages or over 1,000 pages, as a marketer, there are a number of things that you will need to oversee to ensure a smooth transition and to most importantly not significantly affect conversions and traffic.
Here is a list of all the tasks you should include in your redesign plans so that no big surprises bite you when you relaunch your website.
Before The Redesign
Establish Benchmarks & Targets
What gets measured, improves. There are at least 2–3 categories of metrics to track pre-redesign and post-launch; user engagement, SEO and conversion metrics.
Here are a few metrics you should establish a benchmark and create targets against:
User Engagement Metrics
- Site wide bounce rate
- Bounce rate for top entry pages
- Time on site
- Pages per visit
- Percentage of return visits
- Organic search engine visits for your top 25 web pages
- Search engine rankings for your top 25 keywords
- Average order value
- Number of products per order
- Cart abandonment rate
- Checkout funnel conversion rate
Customer Acquisition (SaaS)
- Sign-up funnel conversion rate
- Sign-up form conversion rate
- Lead quality conversion rate (e.g. MQL > SQL)
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but should give you an idea of the metrics to track during pre & post launch.
SEO Keyword Research
Your current site is probably attracting search engine traffic for a number of important keywords. This is a good time to examine and re-evaluate the keywords your site should be targeting.
- Identify the current keywords you are currently ranking for using tools such as SEMRush. Your goal is to minimize negative disruption of your rankings or traffic from these keywords.
- Perform additional keyword research for terms you want to attract search engine traffic, but aren’t currently doing so.
Armed with this data, you’ll have a pretty good idea of the keywords your new site should be targeting and incorporating into the redesign.
Collect All The Website Assets You Need for the New Site
There are a number of assets you need to migrate over to your new website. Things like whitepapers, images, website copy, etc. Collect all of those now and rebrand them if necessary.
User Research & Persona Development
Although this exercise is not isolated to just the website, you will need this information to ensure your website is speaking to the right people, your ideal buyers.
Design your website around the personas that would actually be using your site on a regular basis. Conduct user research to determine who is visiting your current website. User research can come in the form of one or a combined number of sources such as:
- Online surveys
- Existing client surveys
- Customer data from your CRM (to validate against your other user research, not as a standalone)
Once you’ve established your personas, your web design team can focus on who they are designing the site for.
During the Redesign
Since this isn’t an SEO tutorial, I won’t go into the gory details for every item in this section. However, it is worth calling out your SEO to-do list:
- XML sitemap
- Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools verification
- Keyword rich URLs
- URLs that follow your SEO optimized site architecture
- Keyword rich link anchors
- Keyword targeted page titles
- Meta descriptions with SEO copy
- Alt tags for images
- Keyword rich image names
- Site architecture, navigation & hierarchy that follow SEO best practices
- Ample space for optimized web copy for critical web pages
A drop in search engine traffic could mean a significant portion of your sales or leads.
Web Analytics Implementation
Implement web analytics tags to track your website metrics. Depending on the platform you are using, this task could be as simple as 5 lines of code on all your pages or it could be a huge undertaking of page names and page categories.
If it’s the latter, set aside a good chunk of time to plot out how you are going to implement and setup your web analytics strategy.
It is much easier to address it now, than to re-code and re-state your web metrics result because your initial plan was flawed or didn’t scale appropriately.
This is both an SEO and user experience related task, but very important to call out. There are probably dozens, if not hundreds of websites pointing links to your current site right now. Those links are extremely valuable from an SEO and user experience standpoint and you don’t want to lose them or break them. Doing so will negatively affect your search engine traffic, and I’m sure that isn’t one of your goals.
Use a link analysis tool like the Link Explorer tool from Moz to find the top 100 pages on your current website that other websites are linking to.
Create a spreadsheet with two columns; current URLs and new URLs. List out your top 100 pages in the current URLs column. Then list out the new URLs you’ll be using on your new website. You will be providing this list to your IT team well in advance of your website relaunch so they can implement the appropriate 301 redirects. 301 redirects tell Google and other search engines your web pages have permanently moved to new URLs.
For any URLs that aren’t on that list, you’ll have to decide how you’d like to handle them. One option is to programmatically decide certain categories of pages would go to a specific pages on your website.
Once you’ve designed your site and your QA team has thoroughly put your website through its paces, you are steps closer to going live. But before you unleash your website to the masses, you may want to consider a few more things both from the web production front but also from the marketing front.
Usability Testing (optional)
When should you consider usability testing?
Typically when ecommerce is involved and your company relies on its revenue from your website.
Another reason for usability testing is if you will no longer have your web developer and web design resources after your website launch to respond to urgent issues. You want to identify issues now pre-launch, not when your whole project team has disbanded.
Usability testing can take a number of different forms depending on what your company can afford. The three options available are:
- Leveraging UX Experts — Users experience consultants who can conduct and coordinate the testing for you
- Recruiting a sample of existing customers and non-customers and conducting your own usability tests in-house
- Online services such as UserTesting.com where you can specify the type of users you’d like to test your website
Private or Public Beta Launch (optional)
Typically done after all in-house testing has taken place, and when your website is in a form that is worthy of public consumption, beta testing can be a valuable feedback mechanism. Usually exposed to a significant portion of your existing audience, beta testing can help you test not only the new design but the performance of your website.
You are happy with the design. CEO has signed off on things. IT says they’re good to go. Now it’s time to launch. But before you press that big red button that sets the site live, here are a few more considerations.
When to Launch
Launch when you expect the least traffic. Sure you’ve tested and QA and IT says the website is airtight, but there is this thing called Murphy’s Law. What can go wrong, has a high likelihood it will go wrong.
Web Developer & IT Resources On-Hand
It goes without saying, but launching just after beer-Friday is an ill-advised time to launch your website. Whether you are working with contractors or in-house resources, schedule key personnel to be available for the first few hours after the launch to fix any major issues that might just pop up. Consider them your website insurance.
Congratulations you’ve launched your site! Have a bevvy and enjoy the moment. Done with your beverage? Great, now get back to work, you’re not done yet.
Review the website with a critical eye. Are any pixels misaligned? Are there any spelling mistakes? Send a company wide email offering the first 50 people who comes up with a bug a prize.
Monitor 404 Error Results
Are there any broken links on your site? Check your web analytics system or web server logs for any 404 errors. You could be bouncing people off your website without even knowing it.
You’re not done with SEO yet. Have your SEO consultant or company perform a post-launch audit. Some things to check for:
- URL redirects — are they all working?
- Did you regenerate a new XML sitemap?
- 301’s — are all your redirects 301 redirects?
- Have you re-authorized the site with Google Search Console & Bing Webmaster Tools?
- Page Titles& Meta Descriptions — check Google Search Console for any duplicates and fix those
- Is the site inadvertently blocking search engine bots at certain points?
A post launch SEO audit can catch a bunch of nasty stuff that can ruin your launch party.
Check your web analytics system to see if the reports are being populated with data.
You need to collect feedback on your new design. Tap resources like on-site surveys on your website, poll a sample of your users, or monitor Twitter for user outcry. Your design is an evolution, not a destination. Listen, consider, iterate.
Finally, don’t forget to promote your new site design! You can never have too many visitors or links to your website!